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Supporters show their class by hailing their heroes

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SEA OF RED AND GREENMayo supporters once again flocked to the team’s homecoming in MacHale Park despite the defeat to Dublin in the All-Ireland Final on Sunday. See more pics from the homecoming on page 20 of our All-Ireland supplement.  Pic: Conor McKeown

Michael Commins

Castlebar
 
THE Mayo faithful took the team to their hearts once more as they returned home to a rapturous welcome in Castlebar. And heroes they are, as without a shadow of doubt, they became the first GAA team to have become part of the fabric of Irish society … their deeds and efforts celebrated in the hearts of so many people all over the island of Ireland.
This Mayo team has been adopted by every county, with the exception of whoever we play on the day. And ultimately, a piece of silver will never match the love and regard and respect that the Mayo team of this generation has deservedly won.
Tom Flynn from Westport, who I met at the homecoming, captured the moment. “Sam may have eluded the county team this year once again. But this Mayo team has collectively won a trophy more valuable … undying respect.”
These players have been the most incredible ambassadors for Mayo. They have given so much of their lives to the Sam Maguire cause. And in so many ways, Mayo fans are like the Newcastle supporters in English soccer. Even in relegation times, Newcastle fans stick with their team. They sing, they chant, they are ultra loyal. They may not win much but they have an incredible sense of place and loyalty and they always win respect from outside their own region.
You could sense the turning of the tide in MacHale Park this evening (Monday). The disappointment was replaced with that indomitable Mayo pride and loyalty. Several times chants of ‘Mayo Mayo Mayo’ rang out, like a prayer from the heart.
Paul and Evelyn Walsh from Kiltimagh were beside me when a helicopter did a few passes over MacHale Park. I mentioned to Paul that if his brother Joe, who pilots his own helicopter, was over from New Jersey that I’d have thought it was him. “It is Joe!” laughs Paul. “He came over a few days ago. He might be years in America but he loves Mayo. He said he would be in the skies over MacHale Park this evening, helping to make Mayo great again!”
Dublin-based Limerick native, George Langan, recalled a famous Winston Churchill quote: ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts’.
The famous American novelist Louis L’Amour, who celebrated days of the Old West like no one else with the possible exception of Zane Gray, once observed: “The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast and you miss all you are travelling for.”
We have certainly enjoyed that journey with this Mayo team. We are immensely proud of our tremendous ambassadors.